As you have seen, I’m a big fan of the written note as a form of love and thoughtfulness. It is also a powerful tool for empathy.
The short version of Emily’s story is that she’s a cancer survivor who has experience as someone who needed support and empathy. She’s also someone who has felt paralyzed in the face of tragedy in a friend’s life and knows how it feels when you don’t know what to do or say. So she launched a series of empathy cards that express support even when you don’t know what to say. She also co-wrote a book, aptly titled There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love.
She shared some really great tips and insights, so you should definitely listen to the whole thing. But here are a few highlights…
- You’re not alone if you’re afraid to say or do the right thing when things are terrible for someone you know.
- Say something anyway. Even if what you say isn’t the most helpful, it’s better than essentially “ghosting” a friend in need because you can’t figure out how to communicate. (Check out her book if you want ideas of what to do or say in specific situations.)
- Don’t worry about being the most helpful person – do what you’re good at. If everyone brings food, your friend will just have a fridge full of food. And if you hate cooking, you’ll probably just get stressed out and not make a dish and then you might just lose touch altogether because you feel so bad about not doing anything. But your friend might also want company running errands or going to chemo or binge watching Netflix. On that note, your friend might not be able to verbalize what they need if you ask, so don’t leave it to them to come up with something specific. Take the initiative. (For me, that often means I’ll send a thoughtful card, since it’s my love language and chances are good that they won’t be getting too many of those. I don’t know if it actually helps, but it’s something.)
Like I said, the book and episode are worth your time, so check them out.